Neurofascin, NrCAM, L1, and NgCAM are a family of Ig/FNIII cell adhesion molecules that share ankyrin-binding activity in their cytoplasmic domains, and are candidates to form membrane-spanning complexes with members of the ankyrin family of spectrin-binding proteins in a variety of cellular contexts in the nervous system. Specialized forms of ankyrin, 270 kD and/or 480 kD ankyrinG are components of the membrane undercoat of axons at the node of Ranvier. This paper focuses on definition of the isoforms of ankyrin-binding cell adhesion molecules localized with ankyrinG at the nodal axon segment. The exon usage of two major forms of neurofascin was determined by isolation of full-length cDNAs and used to prepare isoform-specific antibodies. An isoform of neurofascin containing a mucin-like domain and lacking the third FNIII domain was concentrated at axon initial segments and colocalized at nodes of Ranvier with ankyrinG and the voltage-dependent sodium channel. An alternative form of neurofascin lacking the mucin-like domain and containing the third FNIII domain was present in unmyelinated axons. The antibody initially raised against neurofascin was used to screen a rat brain cDNA expression library. In addition to neurofascin, this screen yielded a clone with 80% sequence identity to NrCAM from chicken. The sequences of two full-length cDNAs are presented. NrCAM is most closely related to neurofascin among the other members of the L1/neurofascin/NgCAM family, with over 70% identity between cytoplasmic domains. NrCAM, visualized with antibodies specific for the ecto-domain, also was found to be coexpressed with neurofascin at nodes of Ranvier and at axon initial segments. This is the first characterization of defined neuronal cell adhesion molecules localized to axonal membranes at the node of Ranvier of myelinated axons.

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